Digging Around the All-But-Abandoned Astrodome
The Reliant Astrodome was -- is -- the Eighth Wonder of the World. Generations of Houston-area kids spent their days dreaming of playing on the field under that massive domed ceiling. It's one of our city's last non-NASA ties to the space program, this UFO-like structure in the middle of a modern commercial and medical infrastructure. And she's dark, full of dust, and ghosts of heroes past, sitting on Loop 610.
Photo by Craig Hlavaty Old and in the way, but still magic.
Tuesday afternoon the Reliant team allowed a handful of us reporters -- print, blog, radio, and television teams -- to view the rainbow guts of the Houston Astrodome, years dormant, now towered over by Reliant Stadium just a Warren Moon pass to Haywood Jeffires away.
Before we entered, we all signed waivers, since we would be touring a building that is not up to code. Not that it could fall upon us at any moment ("Death by Astrodome" has a fun ring to it) but certain legal precautions must be taken. There is no A/C to speak of, and only minimal lighting. We brought a flashlight and a sweat towel. This is Houston in April after all.
Walking into the Dome, you are greeted by a musty smell, and then your own memories come flooding back. The rainbow seats have a certain way of caressing your eyes. Seeing the old girl devoid of joy, used as a storage facility for random RodeoHouston gear, is a far cry from Biggio, Bagwell, and Cammie on the diamond. The seats are all covered in dust and the ground is littered with fan refuse. A peanut husk here, a receipt there.
The tour made its way to the floor of the Dome, which is where you can fully take in its size. With maybe forty voices jabbering, the silence is still eerie. Looking from where second base or a 50-yard line would be up to the pinnacle of the dome still instills awe. Someone built this. There is football turf laid out on the concrete floor of the Dome, drying out from being flooded by a recent accident in the complex.
Someone dropped a seat near one of the sidelines and it sounded like the crack of a bat, bringing me back to those afternoons spent watching batting practice before Astros games. The sound of a bat hitting a ball had a sound to it in the Dome that you don't hear at Minute Maid.
Photo by Brittanie Shey Put these seats for sale!
We made our way to the former Oilers and Astros locker rooms, rusted from years of dormancy. For some reason when I was young I thought that the rooms where these He-Men suited up were bigger than this.
The Astros clubhouse has been trashed by vandals, with broken glass littering the coaches offices. There are cubby holes on one wall where fan mail would go. I smiled at #11. The baseball team had a large training and sports medicine area. There was a green turf running incline, and of course, batting cages, all set off in a cave. Just a few feet away was the door to where the dugout would be now.
It's easy to forget that pro baseball and football haven't been played here in over a decade. There are still Astros and Oilers insignia throughout. The last time I would have stepped in here would have been 2002 to see Bob Dylan at RodeoHouston while Reliant was coming up next door. Old hand-painted beer ads dated back to 1999 seem quaint now. Nary a QR code in sight.
A quick trip into the press area yielded a visit into the old A/V room where all the video tech work went down. So many VHS tapes, and those big nasty ones I have not seen since college. I couldn't find Milo Hamilton's old digs, sadly.